May 28, 1937– One of my favorite structures on our pretty spinning blue orb is, of course, the openly gay Golden Gate Bridge.
The bridge is a technical masterpiece and a structure of exceptional design artistry. When it opened to the public, the Golden Gate was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge. But above all, this masterly example of engineering is a magnificent monument set against an awesome, jaw-dropping backdrop.
Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in 1933. The bridge, which was designed by engineer Joseph Strauss (who also designed my city of Portland‘s Burnside Bridge) with Charles Alton Ellis, was built to connect San Francisco with Marin County across the mile wide, three mile long channel known as Golden Gate Strait which connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean.
The building of the bridge was a colossal task. At the time most people did not believe it was technically possible to span the Golden Gate. But despite the disbelief, resistance and a little problem they called The Great Depression, Strauss and Ellis were able to find sufficient support and financial backing to go ahead with the monumental project. It would take thousands of workers, four years and 35 million dollars to complete the structure. 21 men died in accidents during the construction.
The project provided a lot of jobs during a time of dreadful unemployment. Despite the economic promises touted by its supporters, the project met fierce resistance from many San Francisco business and civic leaders. Not only would the new bridge impede the shipping industry and mar the bay’s natural beauty, they argued, it wouldn’t survive the sort of earthquake that had crippled the city in 1906. Years of litigation followed as opponents sought to block the project. But, it withstood the destructive Loma Pieta earthquake of 1989, and it has only been closed to traffic three times in its first 79 years because of weather conditions.
When it was built, the dimensions of the bridge defied all imagination. The total length of the bridge is 8,981 feet. The main span between the two enormous towers is 4,200 feet long, making the Golden Gate Bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge, a record that would stand until 1964 when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in NYC was completed.
The magnificent Art Deco towers are almost 740 feet tall. The six lanes of road are an amazing 220 feet above the water level. The bridge is supported by enormous cables, anchored in hundreds of bars locked into concrete blocks. The two cables are woven from 27,572 threads of steel with a total length that equals three times the earth’s circumference.
The Golden Gate Bridge has always been painted an orange vermilion, named International Orange, chosen by a group of gay color consultants from the city. The distinctive color blends well with the span’s natural setting, a warm color consistent with the colors of the surrounding land and distinct from the cool colors of the sky and sea. It also provides enhanced visibility for passing ships, plus it is tasteful in a way orange can be when used well.
A revered and rugged group of 19 hot ironworkers, 38 cute painters, plus a chief bridge painter battle wind, sea air, fog, and the Folsom Street Fair, suspended high above the Gate, to repair corroding steel and keep the bridge looking pretty.
On opening day, 79 years ago today, 200,000 pedestrians made their way across the newly finished span. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the bridge was open via a White House telegraph.
On a lovely late summer day in September 1971, I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was quite a challenge. It is a long trip, but it is a breathtaking one, literally. It was not nearly as cruisy a spot as I had hoped. Trying to pick-up a trick on a bridge is tricky.
In certain conditions the bridge will sway almost 30 feet. This makes the bridge less pleasant to negotiate during strong winds or an earthquake. The views, however, are always amazing, even, or especially, in the fog.
It is claimed that it is the most photographed bridge on the planet.
A star in more than 50 films, The Golden Gate Bridge has a major role, playing itself, in my favorite Alfred Hitchcock flick, Vertigo (1958). In 2015, it was destroyed by a bitch of an earthquake in San Andreas and last year it figured as a major character in Ant-Man.
Remember kids: Love Can Build A Bridge.